Driven to Extremes? Motivated Bias and Attitude Polarization in One-Sided Communication Flows

26 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2011 Last revised: 11 Jul 2012

See all articles by Carl L. Palmer

Carl L. Palmer

Illinois State University - Department of Politics and Government

Date Written: July 10, 2012

Abstract

As political elites become more polarized, and political rhetoric becomes increasingly conflictual, normative concerns have emerged about the state of citizen opinion. Do citizens weigh information even-handedly, or is their focus more myopic? Are citizens driven to extremes by exposure to one-sided rhetoric from elites? Using a novel experimental design, I assess the extent to which individuals’ attitudes toward marijuana legalization are influenced by targeted arguments in favor or opposition. Exposure to targeted argumentation leads to biased information processing on the part of subjects, with normatively concerning implications for opinion. Results suggest that biased processing leads to polarized opinion not only on the targeted issue, but also spreads to unrelated issues. These effects are moderated only by accessibility of prior beliefs. These findings suggest a point of concern for the objectivity of citizens when faced with one-sided political debate.

Keywords: Attitudes, motivated reasoning, persuasion

Suggested Citation

Palmer, Carl L., Driven to Extremes? Motivated Bias and Attitude Polarization in One-Sided Communication Flows (July 10, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1733983 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1733983

Carl L. Palmer (Contact Author)

Illinois State University - Department of Politics and Government ( email )

433 Schroeder Hall
Normal, IL 61790
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
72
Abstract Views
957
rank
400,462
PlumX Metrics